Operational Planning Challenges in Local Government

Most administrations set a “horizon” period for strategic or operational planning, and most likely they have spent valuable time in the planning process during this period. Historically, a considerable amount of this strategic and operational planning has little possibility of being actioned due to changing management, unassigned tasks, non-aligned collaboration, lack of reporting, transparency, or events such as the current COVID-19, which may be with us for a long time to come.

Current thinking presents a strong argument that many administrations should not dismiss their current strategy maps that easily based on unplanned events encountered during the period under review, considering the time spent discussing the merit of every strategic objective.

Hopefully, you have this process documented and reported. The argument is if the strategic goal had merit before a major event occurred, it must still have merit now. Each project and approved program should not necessarily be dismissed. Rather, they should be weighed up so any decision to defer them takes all factors into consideration, is measured alongside the requirements of existing organizational goals, and if deferred, is done so until the funds become available to resume services.

The consensus is that current revenue reductions for local government and school districts are predicted to be between 15% and 35% depending on your region, this year alone. If your finance team and project management team have substantial documentation, measured the risk, and expected outcomes that are in the “highly expected action goals,” then over the coming months these actionable goals must still be considered on three levels:

  1. Ensure your administration is handling core requirements such as emergency operations, including public well-being, consolidating job security, ensuring community services that are relevant and effective, and finally, organizational resilience – developing an influential culture that your community can see. (Refer ICMA: Engaging for Local Government Innovation)
  2. Involve your community in all facets of any changes. If you maintain the current needs and progress several of the initiatives that the community initially requested, then they will want to be a part of the journey and not become the objecting antagonist. An administration leadership team that maintains up to date programs, researches the common questions, and responds effectively will no doubt have a community that will work with them. Another area to never underestimate is your volunteer sector. Use their input and promote their contributions within the community.
  3. Engage your administration staff at all levels. This timing includes periods where there may be short term layoffs or services deferred. It’s here we need to recognize the difference between “Business as Usual” reduction of services due to revenue shortfalls, as opposed to initiatives that were deemed current and needed now more than ever for the long-term recovery of your region.

Several progressive local governments across the USA, Canada, and Australia have utilized GovernmentalFrameworks.com’s years of experience to assist them in the specific difficult areas aforementioned, by developing strategic and operational planning systems to plan, track, and report in areas of revenue management, risk, emergency services recognition, and public dashboards  Currently CARE, HUB, FEMA and other grant offerings are helping to cushion the expense, as there are clear and proven benefits to ensuring your administration remains on track.

It is this year that revenue shortfalls will come under abnormal pressure, so it is clear you have to be prepared and action your initiatives based on tracked, managed, and reported evidence. Strategic and operational planning execution has not left the building; it is just been nudged to the back of the shelf as it can all appear too difficult. At GovernmentFrameworks.com, we can help you organization through your difficult processes and turn them into positive outcomes, helping you to visualize and organize your strategic and operational planning and obtain the most effective results for your administration.

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Marie Reinking

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